With the Rock n’ Roll Philly Half Marathon just 4 days away and the expo set to kick off Friday, I can hardly stop thinking about it. It’s given me something to look forward to.
However it goes beyond the tangibles.
The freebies, the ability to try new products, the panels and speakers are nice. Don’t get me wrong. We all paid for a product, an experience, one way or another. I still plan on reviewing the entire race weekend experience as I’ve done in previous years. The race itself has given me goals and kept me in line and that finisher’s medal is looking very shiny.
That will help make my weekend but it’s not the main reason I’m excited. Not by a country mile.
In a world of social isolation, sheer human interaction and connecting with people has become critical for me. It has become a saving grace for me psychologically.
I made the choice to go back to school. I made the choice to pursue a demanding career. I have long accepted that it will have a significantly detrimental effect on my personal life.
What I did not anticipate however, was the inability to relate to others around me because of my life choices. I’m seeing it more with family, old friends from university, my current crop of classmates in graduate school and colleagues and it is terrifying.
And I live in a very large city too.
Conversations with friends, family, classmates and colleagues often break down into celebrities, TV shows, activities and/or home life with significant others, children and/or wedding planning from the perspective of the bride. Given my lifestyle, I couldn’t touch on most of those topics with a ten-foot-pole. In some cases I wind up completely embarrassing myself (case in point: I had no idea what Breaking Bad was until last month). On my end, I admit I focus more on the intellectual, but even that aside, I love talking travel, current events, sports (particularly hockey, soccer, baseball and running), general fitness.
What does this all mean? It’s insane work to forge or break into conversations and mission impossible to build friendships when you feel you are on a different planet from people.
Running has helped me belong again. A common group of people with common goals, and somehow even when the focus is away from running, I’m still able to relate to people. Even if we lead fundamentally different lives. I can be myself without encountering ridicule, I can talk about nearly anything of interest without feeling I’m losing control in the conversation, and I’m even learning new things.
Case in point, my first sailing trip last weekend. I’d never been to a yacht club, but was invited to a party by other runners on my team. We went down to the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia, which borders the Delaware River. It is in the southern suburb of Essington right by the airport.
Here, we kayaked, paddleboarded, and yes, sailed the open Delaware River. Everyone seemed old hat to the yachting and sailing experience, but for me, this was my first time ever in a sailboat. I’ve kayaked before, my last time being three years ago at my cousin’s wedding in Chestertown, MD, along the Chesapeake Bay.
We spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening along the river and as our hosts found themselves caught out on the river after dark, we had a grand time chowing on typical barbecue food and carrying on.
I met other runners and plan on returning for more social events. I find that even within the running community I find we have a lot more in common than just running, and that’s a good thing.
This weekend – race weekend – gives me a prime opportunity to meet with runners I know locally and those who have since moved out of town. It’s the weekend for run clubs to really bond over common goals, even if not all runners run the longer distances. (Our club has a mix of both sides, but even those that run shorter distances are very social.) These are people who despite fewer time spent with in comparison to fellow students or colleagues, have made a huge impact on my life. We push each other, catch up with each other, tailgate after the race and strangely, in some ways, the real me comes out of her shell.
The cascade of Twitter messages from others psyched up for race weekend only reminds me of all the excitement to come, both on and off the pavement. I enjoyed meeting up with people at prior races, and it won’t be any different.